The Best of 2014

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA theater for KCRW.

Here's a list of my favorite LA theater experiences from 2014.

The year got off to a bang at the Broad Stage with Denis O'Hare's stunning An Illiad. A tour de force retelling of the horrors of war that still haunt us. One actor, a practically bare stage and Homer's words. What could be better?

Sticking with the larger theaters, the Geffen seems to be finding a voice beyond celebrity casts. With both Neil LaBute's Reasons to Be Pretty and Tarell Alvin McCraney's Choir Boy, the Geffen picked plays that begin to articulate a conscience and a vision - let's hope this trend continues.

Now to LA theater's heart: small theater.

A recent transplant to LA, Four Larks crafted site-specific brilliance with their junkyard opera Orpheus. In a random warehouse off the 10 the company created an ephemeral splash with a goregous aesthetic. More please.

Same goes for Poor Dog Group and their Five Small Fires that traced the blurred lines between cult and ensemble. My only gripe with this young talented company is I want to see more work more often.

Pacific Resident Theater showed how epic a small black box can be with their Henry V.

Antaeus proved they're an ensemble whose classics aren't only museum pieces with the chilling Wedding Band: A Love-Hate Story in Black and White.

Jessica Goldberg's play Better, produced by the Echo Theater Company, reconnected me with a talented playwright surrounded by a committed company.

The Echo also produced Mickey Birnbaum's Backyard a play that carried the tropes of amateur wrestling to allegorical heights. Led by actor Hugo Armstrong, in one of two standout performances this year, the cast's commitment elevated comic spectacle to a deeper examination of the narratives we all construct.

Mr. Armstrong's also led the Burglars of Hamm's production of the Behavior of Broadus at Sacred Fools. A musical that had everything from singing rats to crying babies and a wickedly dark sophisticated sense of humor. Anyone doubting if LA theater has the chops need look no further.

And finally the show I wish I could go back and see again, Boston Court and Circle X's Stupid Fucking Bird. Aaron Posner's adaptation of Chekhov's The Seagull managed to resurrect the role of Konstantin and infuse a classic with new blood. Oddly true to the original and simultaneously startling, it's the best adaptation of Chekhov in years. I'm only sorry I only saw it once.

What stands out are the ensembles, both existing and impromptu. LA's gift has always been an embarrassment of talented actors... but we all know it takes more that great actors to make a great play. More frequently, in more places, LA's intimate theater is crafting sophisticated theater. Let's hope for more in the New Year.

Next week, a look at the year ahead.

What were your favorites this year?

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA theater for KCRW.